The final round of Morbidly Beautiful’s head-to-head competition ends October 31st at noon central; vote now for your favorite “Death Games” movie.
In a surprisingly close battle with BRAINSCAN, SAW advances, and READY OR NOT pulls off a stunning upset against BATTLE ROYALE to clinch its spot in the finals.
This October, in celebration of our five year anniversary, we’re thrilled to present Morbidly Beautiful’s first ever interactive film face-off — letting you vote for your favorite Death Game films over a series of five rounds, ultimately crowning the “King of Carnage”.
Beginning September 26th, 32 killer horror films entered the ring ready for battle. Over the next four week of voting, many films were slayed by the competition, until only two worthy competitors were left standing. It’s all come down to this. Based on your votes, two films will attempt to maim, mutilate, and dismember their way to the top — seizing the bloody crown by any means necessary.
The two films facing off in the final round represent the true spirit of this competition. Released nearly two decades apart, both films overcame serious underdog status to unexpectedly win hearts of horror fans and critics.
It’s no surprise that the odds on favorite, Saw, finds itself among the final two.
“If it’s Halloween, it must be Saw” was Lionsgate’s tag line to the Saw franchise for years. And it wasn’t just a clever marketing gimmick. It all began in 2004 when then-unknown horror director James Wan delivered a very low-budget but very memorable and gleefully twisted thriller about a new killer named Jigsaw. It was written by (and co-starred) another unknown talent making his feature film writing debut, Leigh Whannell. The film catapulted both of these men into the spotlight and set the wheels in motion for a genre juggernaut.
For years, Saw was the quintessential King of Halloween. Saw completely dominated the Halloween release schedule for years, changing the game for both horror movie distributors and producers. After the overwhelming success of the first film, the production company behind Saw, Twisted Pictures, started churning out a new film in the franchise every year at the same time — so fans knew exactly what to expect and when to expect it. Thus, watching the latest Saw film in the theaters every Halloween became a celebrated tradition for many horror fans, myself included.
It just wasn’t Samhain without Jigsaw, Billy the Puppet, and a bevy of brutal and morbidly creative death traps.
Wan went on to direct other iconic horror films, including Insidious and The Conjuring. Star Tobin Bell and his chilling avatar Billy the Puppet became as recognizable as Jason’s hockey mask. Torture porn (though, a bit of a derogatory and misleading label, especially for the earlier franchise films) became its own wildly successful sub-genre. And for nearly a decade, most studio horror movie releases cleared the way for Lionsgate to drop a new sequel in October just before Halloween.
Nearly two decades later, the franchise still has the power to command audiences and generate rabid excitement whenever a new installment is announced.
Spiral: From the Book of Saw will be the ninth film in the franchise, set to release on May 21, 2021 (following a COVID-related push from 2020). Former series director Darren Lynn Bousman returned to helm the film, with Chris Rock involved as an executive producer, in addition to writing the story treatment. Joining Rock as executive producers are the original Saw creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell. Rock is said to have brought a “completely fresh perspective” to the franchise, and it certainly doesn’t seem like this worldwide phenomenon franchise is fading away anytime soon.
The scrappy newcomer, Ready or Not, defeated a staple of the sub genre to earn its spot in the finals.
In 2019 (a pre-COVID, theater-friendly world), Fox Searchlight’s Ready or Not snuck into the late summer movie season, becoming one of the most recent genre success stories — a big hit relative to its low budget. The movie gave Fox Searchlight (and their new parent company Disney) one of its best openings of the decade. Out of 185 titles going back to 1995, Ready or Not‘s debut comes in at number 12. Made on a budget of $6 million (considered relative modest for a studio release), the movie rolled into just under 3,000 US theaters on August 23, grossing $8 million opening weekend. Then it took advantage of the long Labor Day weekend, where it made $7.4 million over the four-day weekend. By the time it completed its theatrical run, it had made five times its production budget.
Ready or Not, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, follows Grace (Samara Weaving) as she’s hunted by her new husband’s family in their mansion as part of a ritualistic game of hide and seek. The smart, incredibly fun and gory horror comedy wasn’t just a hit with audiences. Critics loved it as well, praising the stellar performances from the ensemble cast, the clever high concept premise, and a star making turn from relative newcomer at the time Samara Weaving.
It’s a swiftly paced, tightly filmed, character-rich film that’s enormously effective at building tension and suspense. It benefits tremendously from well written, quirky dialogue and pitch perfect casting. It also happens to be beautifully designed with some poignant and nuanced social commentary that never feels heavy handed or preachy.
While I’m not afraid to admit my great surprise that Ready or Not took down Battle Royale in the semifinals, this intriguing, wildly entertaining, and darkly comedic film certainly deserves all the praise its received and is more than earning its “future cult status” buzz.
Now, the only question left is, can it pull off an even bigger upset and steal the carnage crown from the King of Halloween? That’s up to you!